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The Difference Between Contributory and Comparative Negligence

a shot from below looking up at the outside of a courthouse with a partial blue sky | difference between contributory and comparative negligenceIf you are filing a personal injury lawsuit or seeking compensation, you may have heard the word negligence. In order to collect compensation for your injuries, your lawyer must first establish who the negligent party is. This means – who is responsible for the accident and your injuries. Yet this is not always an easy task and in some cases both parties share responsibility for the accident and the injuries. When this occurs, who is to blame? And who pays?  Understanding the answers to these questions means understanding the difference between contributory and comparative negligence.

Contributory negligence means that both parties may have been at least partially responsible for the accident. As an example, assume John is driving 50 in a 35mph zone. Jane, a bicyclist, pedals out from behind a car, crossing where there is no crosswalk. In this instance, both John and Jane are at least partially responsible for the resulting accident (when John’s car strikes Jane). Under contributory negligence, the injured party (Jane) would file a personal injury claim, suing John for her injuries.

John would then file a counter-claim, asserting contributory negligence against Jane, stating that her injuries were, at least somewhat, the result of her own negligent actions. If John can prove his claim of contributory negligence, Jane might either be completely barred from recovering any damages for her injuries, or her damages could be significantly reduced.

Under comparative negligence laws, each party’s negligence for any injury is carefully weighed when considering damages. Traditionally, courts view contributory negligence as a total bar to damage recovery. This means that when a person contributes, in any way, to his or her injuries, then no compensation is warranted. Unfortunately, this is a very harsh, sometimes unfair outcome, which led to comparative negligence laws. A state may operate under pure comparative negligence laws or modified comparative negligence laws.

Under pure comparative negligence, the damages of a plaintiff are totaled, then reduced according to how responsible he or she was for the accident. If a plaintiff was awarded $100,000, and the jury decided he or she was 40 percent responsible for the accident, the plaintiff would receive $60,000. Under modified comparative negligence, if the plaintiff is found equally or more responsible for his or her injuries (50 percent or above), then there will be no compensation awarded.  The state of Colorado operates under modified comparative negligence rules.

Understanding negligence and how it applies to your case can be confusing and complicated. That is why it is so important to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side from the very start. Your attorney will be able to fight aggressively for your rights to maximum compensation.

Contact Our Experienced Broomfield Personal Injury Lawyers

The attorneys of the personal injury law firm of Hull& Zimmerman, P.C.If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident in Broomfield, Northglenn, Westminster, Thornton, or anywhere in Colorado, it is important to contact our experienced personal injury attorneys immediately. At Hull & Zimmerman, P.C., our committed personal injury lawyers are dedicated to the belief that everyone deserves justice. Contact us at (303) 423-1770 or (866) 385-3505.

Our personal injury lawyers have extensive experience representing injured accident victims in Broomfield, Arvada, Superior, Lafayette, Louisville, Erie, Brighton, Commerce City, Northglenn, Westminster, Thornton, Longmont, and throughout Colorado.



At Hull & Zimmerman, P.C., we are honored to help accident victims in their time of need, and take our responsibility as personal injury lawyers incredibly seriously. We know how important it is for victims to secure the full and fair compensation they need following a serious accident, and that is why we take a hands-on, personalized approach to every case we handle.

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